MAILBAG (PART 1): Defense, Justise Winslow, G League Rules, Chauncey Billups, Shaedon Sharpe, ROOT Sports
Answering reader questions in the first part of a new mailbag.
With the first week of Trail Blazers training camp and four preseason games in the books, there are a lot of new topics to break down. That’s true every year, but especially now, with so many new players. I knew I’d get a lot of questions last week when I put out a call to paid subscribers for the newest mailbag, and sure enough, I got enough that this is going to be another two-parter.
Part one today covers a variety of topics that get more in the weeds, including the G League, the ROOT Sports/Comcast situation, how to evaluate Chauncey Billups in a rebuilding year, and what Justise Winslow is up to now.
Part two, which will not be paywalled, will be out later this week or early next week and deal with a lot of the questions that are more big-picture about the state of the franchise—or, some variation of “How to enjoy a rebuild when you know the losses are coming.”
Let’s get into it.
How will the Blazers defense be different/any better this season? Will Ayton at center lead to less drop coverage? Will a full season of Matisse make an impact? Or is a team starting Ant and another small guard in the backcourt doomed to be bad defensively?
- Anne M.
Backcourt defense is never going to stop being an issue with the size disadvantage the Blazers will be facing every night. That was true with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, it was true with Lillard and Anfernee Simons and it will remain true with Simons and Scoot Henderson. Henderson has the physical tools and work ethic to one day become a decent defender (Matisse Thybulle spoke highly of his effort on that end during training camp), but that isn’t going to happen in year one, and there are only so many guys he’ll be able to guard at his size. So that’s always going to be there.
The rest of the roster outside of the guards should be much improved on the defensive end, though. With Ayton and Robert Williams III, they have real size in the frontcourt now. Thybulle is a terror on that end. Malcolm Brogdon has been a good defender in his career. Jerami Grant is a plus defender. They have real talent on that end of the floor now.
Not that it’s going to matter, because this team isn’t going to win very many games. But they’ve had a bottom-four defense each of the last four years and I don’t think that’s going to continue this year. Not that they’ll be elite on that end—they could just be a bottom-10 defense instead of bottom-five—but they have better talent than they have in some time. The reason they’re going to be bad for the next couple of years isn’t defense, it’s because they have so many young players and they’re handing the keys to the offense to a 19-year-old.
You see now and then Blazers fans wondering what was the exact outcome for Justise Winslow and what are his plans. He was well liked at the very least off the court. He gave a video update a long while ago and then drifted off the team with little or no comment from anybody. Justise is a thoughtful guy and I've always enjoyed hearing from him.